OS Performance (was OT: New low for Microsoft!)

David L Norris dave at webaugur.com
Wed May 5 22:32:25 UTC 2004

On Wed, 2004-05-05 at 07:10, Gabriel M. Beddingfield wrote:
> The first thing I notice in Linux (running GNOME) is that it *seems* 
> more sluggish than Windows.

Does this machine have an Ethernet adapter?  If so, make sure your host
name is set correctly in /etc/hosts.  redhat-config-network will let you
edit that.  If the machine cannot find it's hostname it will be very,
very, very slow.  For example, Mozilla might take 30 seconds to load
instead of 5.  Normally GNOME will warn you at login of this, though.

> A good example is switching windows.  Everything is loaded in RAM -- no 
> caching to the HD.  When I change the focus to another open window, it's 
> like I get a flicker-flicker-there.  It takes around 500ms to make the 
> change.  In Windows, this is not so.

The flickering could be called a feature of X11.  First the window is
created by the server then the application draws into the window.  You
see an empty gray (or whatever color you chose) window then a
split-second later the application appears inside the empty window. 
That applies to menus, windows, everything that appears on the screen
outside of an existing window.  The faster your applications respond the
less flicker you see.

There is discussion among the desktop developers (freedesktop.org, etc)
as to how they can make it seem faster.  It's not really that Windows
_is_ faster at these things.  It's largely that it _seems_ faster
because it doesn't show you such implementation details.  MacOS X has a
very rich off-screen rendering subsystem.  I think the desktop
developers plan to implement something similar in X over the next year
or two.

If you're interested what's going on then here are some notes from the X
Developers Conference held last week (April 28-30):

> So here's the question:  Is this normal for Fedora and/or Linux?  Do I 
> maybe have a bad video setting?

More RAM should help.  Faster video would probably help.  But, yes, it
is not abnormal.  The slower/busier the system the more noticeable it
will be.

> Otherwise, is it possible that Linux developers are prone to pushing the 
> hardware, too?  Honestly, I don't see why my 486/DX2 w/8MB is obsolete. 
>   What are we doing now that requires so much more horsepower?  Are word 
> processors now solving partial differential equations before they print?

Fedora Core 1 works fine on my Pentium 75 MHz with 128 MB RAM.  And on
my P100 laptop.  And my K6-450 laptop with 192 MB RAM.  And my K6-500
desktop with 256 MB RAM.  And my 1G Athlon with 768 MB RAM.  Yes, the
P75 flickers and you can brief pauses between drawing objects to the
screen.  But it works fine and is reasonably fast with most programs. 
OpenOffice is definitely out of the question but Abiword and Gnumeric
work fine.

As others have suggested increased RAM drastically improves performance
especially on slow machines.  And disable _every_ service you don't
absolutely need.  I even disable sendmail, cron, atd, etc on slow
systems with low memory.

If I need to use something like OpenOffice on the Pentium 75 I can run
it from a faster machine over the network.  Pick one fast machine with
lots of RAM then disable it's firewall (or reconfigure it) and enable
XDMCP in the GDM "login manager."  Now go to the slow machine's login
screen, press F10, and select XDMCP Chooser.  You'll then be presented
with a list of XDMCP-enabled hosts on your LAN.  Double-click a machine
and you will presented with its graphical login.  Now your slow machine
is just a dumb X terminal.

Press F10 on the slow machine's login screen:
Double-click a willing host:
Login to the remote machine:
Now you can use it as if you were sitting at the console:
Logout of the machine (notice you cannot shutdown remotely):

 David Norris
  ICQ - 412039
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